How to get signed to a record label?
Before hunting for your first record deal, it is best if you have these three crucial elements - a substantial music discography, a solid fanbase, and a built reputation/popularity in the music business.
Similar to how networking works, music professionals only work with you if they see a certain value in you. Thus, if you think you’re not ready yet, you can start building your fanbase and popularity by checking out our article on music promotion. You can also check out our article on how to network within the industry - having a solid network always benefit in your music career.
If you are ready, let’s jump into steps you need to take to reach your first record deal.
Do your research
Have you ever heard of instances like artists signing to bad record deals and losing all of their song’s rights? For example, Taylor Swift’s legal fight against Scott Borchetta, founder of the Big Machine Label Group, and Scooter Braun, the famous manager of Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, etc.
Thus, before jumping into getting a record deal just for the sake of having one, you should be well-educated on what types of labels and record deals are there along with its restrictions.
Two types of labels
As its name suggests, major labels are well-established labels owned by multinational media conglomerates. They are usually known as “the big three” - Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group. Under the big three, there are many subsidiaries such as Capital Records, Columbia Records, Atlantic Records, etc.
The obvious pros of having a major label behind your back are they can fully fund your campaign from A to Z. They also have huge networking which leads to much more media exposure once you’re signed with them. Thus, getting a record deal from the major labels is every musician’s dream.
However, everything comes with a cost - major record companies are famous for being a tyrant on creative control and royalties. This means you have little to no control/right over your music. Moreover, since major labels capitalize on maximizing profit, the royalty you get to earn is also little.
So what categorized labels as independent labels? The answer is rather simple - any recording label that runs without funding from major labels. Independent or indie record labels are usually small to medium sized companies that produce and distribute records.
In most cases, independent labels work as a long-term partnerships or a contractual relationship between the labels and the artist. Thus, it is a common to see a musician starts out with independent labels and move up to major labels.
The major pros of working with an independent label is you have control over creativity and rights of your music. Moreover, you get to work closely with the people at the labels and the contracts are more artist-friendly compared to major labels. However, independent labels tends to have smaller budgets for recording, music production, and distribution.
Three types of deals
There are many types of deals in the music industry. However, this article will cover the three most common deals you would come across as an upcoming artist.
Traditional record deal
This is the most common deal and mostly comes from major labels’ offer. In this deal, the label has all of the controls over the distribution of your work. Moreover, the label usually takes ownership for master recordings’ right in exchange for no more than 22% royalties.
Indie Record Deals
Similar to its name, this is a deal from independent/indie label. Even though most indie labels can’t provide an excessive financial support as major labels, these deals usually don’t demand you to give up your ownership of the masters. Also, the royalties tend to be higher. However, since they’re likely don’t have a distribution, you might have to sign multiple deals to cover all of the aspects of a music launch.
Single deal recording contract
Even though this type of deal is still relatively new, it has rapidly become a norm in Europe. Exactly how it sounds, this deal based on single instead of albums like we usually see. Major labels will sign to test out the success rate of you releasing a whole album with them. Independent labels also use this deal to test out the market’s response toward your music.
This deal is a win-win for both parties as it carries lower risk for the labels and the artists get to promote their songs with the label’s help. Even though the royalties are typically lower compared to an album deal, it’s still worth to test out the water with a single deal contract.
Prepare your demo
After determining which type of record label and deal you want to pursue, it’s time for you to prepare your demo submission. No matter how big your fandom is, everything comes down to great music. Hence, our best advice here is to prepare for a demo that best describes your music style. Another piece of advice we have for you is to briefly contextualize your demo - giving the A&R representative a bigger picture of your demo and you as a musician.
Organize your EPK
EPK stands for electronic press kit - your musician resume. Now it’s the time for you to update and refine your EPK as you’ll be presenting it along with your demo. The more professional your EPK looks, the higher your chance of being offered a record deal.
Almost no one wants to work with a nobody in this industry; thus, an EPK is a great opportunity to showcase your branding as an established musician. If you don’t have one, here is our guide to build an electronic press kit.
Shoot your shot
After finishing all these steps, you’re ready to give it your best in front of the A&R representative. The key here is to stay confident and pitch yourself to the right people. If you’re an indie artist with a more low key fanbase, pitching yourself to a major label’s representative would be setting yourself up for failure.
On the other hand, pitching yourself to an indie label with a similar style of music will secure a higher chance of them signing you. Thus, a tip here is to stay relevant to your goal and music identity.
Even though there is no formula in successfully getting signed, the more popular you are means the higher chance of you getting signed by record labels. A way to achieve this is through music marketing - meaning continuously promoting your music to increase your popularity and fan bases.
At Base for Music, we help you run ads for your music by generating sponsored campaigns across social networks such as Facebook, TikTok, Youtube, and Spotify. Through our services, your music will get heard which steadily increases your fanbase and chances of getting signed.
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